Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Our Guardians, our Heros!

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” ― Mark Twain

When I think of creation and the many beauties and perks that come along with being an (elite?) member of this planet, I can easily become overwhelmed with awe at my Creator’s resourcefulness. At the moment, I’m thinking of dogs in our lives. I think that we should give more time and pay greater respects during World Dog Day (see: http://worlddogday.net/) to more justly celebrate and honor what these four-legged partners do for us.

I subscribe to Bored Panda (https://www.boredpanda.com), and an e-article, titled, “30+ Times Dogs Surprised Humans With Their Incredibly Heroic Acts” caught my attention. It’s a wonderful article with photos, and you cannot read to the end without having a greater respect for dogs and what they do for us. The first story relates how Layka, a female German Shepherd military dog who, after being shot four times, still managed to subdue an insurgean that had attacked her handler.

A second story is about a dog that had to bark for 30 minutes in attempt to persuade his family to leave the house because of a gas leak. There’s more, and each one of the stories will pull at your heart strings.

Now, at first blush, one may question just how are heroic acts like I’ve just quoted, related to intelligence—or loyalty, for that matter?  Well, without intelligence, any living, conscious being would be little more than a walking zombie! It takes reasoning, compassion and understanding to be intelligent, regardless of the species. It also takes intelligence to be loyal, trustworthy, and an eternal friend!

Browsing through the short stories mentioned in the Bored Panda e-article mentioned above, it’s not hard to see the super ability—dare I say psychic intelligence—these dogs display by understanding the problem, then being able to take immediate action, often without prompting from their human handlers.

“I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me–they, and the love and loyalty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could.”  ― Veronica RothAllegiant

I can add a personal dog-story to the Bored Panda list. A few years ago I owned a beautiful German Shepherd dog I named Sheba. At the time,  I was suffering from depression brought on by lack of work (I am self employed), failing health and mounting  bills. I had an overwhelming blanket of heaviness fall over me with a feeling that all the world was against me: In my world, it seemed that I had no friends and no one to turn to for support. It was then that I noticed Sheba had quietly come over to where I was sitting and laid her head on my lap, looked up at me with eyes that said, “Grieve not. I will always be your friend!” I just cried with relief!

What a dreary world this would be if we didn’t have dogs to protect, comfort and support us!

 

Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Magpies and our Cat

 

“The fox, when it sees a flock of heron or magpies or birds of any kind, suddenly flings itself on the ground with his mouth open to look as he were dead; and these birds want to peck at his tongue, and he bites off their heads.”  —Leonardo da Vinci

I don’t always have to Google the world to find good stories about animals. Sometimes the most astounding, cutest, funniest antics of animals can take place right in front of me, right in my own back yard!

This day I was lounging in one of our deck chairs on our patio when my attention was suddenly attracted to a corner of our yard near the shed, where two Magpies were making quite a ruckus. I glanced over and here was one Magpie limping, screeching its distress call (its version of help?), fluttering its wings like it was injured and couldn’t fly. It was doing this quite near to where one of our cats was sunning itself in the grass. Naturally the cat thought this a good opportunity for a fresh, feathery lunch and lunged for the bird. However, no sooner did the cat get within a few inches of the Magpie, when the Magpie flew up and perched itself on the fence, screeching (more like cackling) in delight in their high pitched shriek that they have, which, to me, sounded like it was laughing its silly head off at having just fooled the cat.

Meanwhile, the second Magpie flew down and landed just a few feet from where the cat now was, the cat looking a bit dazed and confused, because in its mind, the “wounded” Magpie should have been firmly gripped between its paws, not up there on the fence. The second Magpie repeated the first Magpie’s ‘injured’ prank. Sure enough, the cat fell for the trick and lunged for the second Magpie, and the Magpie also flew away just as the cat got within inches of what it anticipated to be an easy lunch.

The two Magpies repeated this caper, much to their own ‘kinky?’ delight at having so completely frustrated the cat. One Magpie would play injured, then fly away just as the cat got near it, then the second Magpie repeated the first one’s ‘injured’ play, then fly away just as the cat again got near. I finally ended up intervening, for had I not interrupted this little fun-play, I’m sure the two Magpies would have driven that poor cat crazy.

I know Magpies are very intelligent birds and are capable of the most intelligent, creative behavior patterns that I’ve ever seen in birds. But I also know that cats are very intelligent and usually not easily fooled, so why did it fall for the play of these two Magpies? I can only conclude that it would be for the same reason an otherwise seemingly intelligent human falls for the nefarious pranks of a scammer!

Sometimes we are the object of the joke, and sometimes we are the joker.

Amazing Intelligence in Animals (some animal facts)

“Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care can we help. Only if we help can they be saved!” — Jane Goodall

Looking at the diversity of Nature, I wonder. Just because we have speech and animals don’t, does that make us superior to them? Vanity would like to think so! We may have speech, but other animals have far better–unique—communication skills that we can only dream of. For example, we need our cell phones to talk to someone more than a few hundred meters from us. Using sound signals, wales can communicate—remember, we’re talking about communication skills— with each other over a distance of many miles. Using these same sound skills, they can even identify objects in the water at great distances. We need binoculars to come even close to what they can do!

A cat’s field of vision is 200 degrees; human’s field of vision is only 180 degrees, plus a cat can see 6 to 8 times better at night than humans can.

A camel’s hump is mainly stored fat. During winter months in the Sahara Desert, camels can use that stored fat to go without water for up to six months! Humans can only go three to five days without water.

Bears can smell food from 29 kilometers away, while humans can only smell a strong odor, like skunk spray, for no more than 2.5 kilometres away (phew!).Bees are those tiny winged little insects I love to talk about and advocate for. Our overuse of pesticides is rapidly destroying their habitat, and governments are so reluctant to do anything about it, but did you know, that if our thoughtless greed eradicates that humble little bee, within a very few years, mankind would be in dire straights for a food source: bees pollinate the flowers that bear the fruit, berries, grains and vegetables that we eat. Also, did you know that bees can find the most efficient route between flowers and their home-hive faster than a supercomputer can.

Have you ever gone to your doctor and s/he told you, you need more sleep? If you have, be glad that you’re not a giraffe and can sleep more. A giraffe sleeps for only about 20 minutes a day. Humans need lots of sleep.

Makes me wonder. Do animals often feel themselves superior to humans?

It makes me sad when I see so many people abuse animals, and nature in general. As Theodor W. Adorno said, “Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterouse and thinks: they’re only animals.” 

Amazing Intelligence in Animals — Elephants

“We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits: empathy, self-awareness, and social intelligence. But the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behavior.”  — Graydon Carter

You’ve heard that elephants have a great memory. Well, that’s not all they have. Elephant’s are considered the world’s most intelligent animal, and are similar to a human’s brains in many ways.

According to an article in Wikipedia, Elephants manifest a wide variety of behaviors, including those associated with grief, learning, mimicry play, altruism, use of tools, compassion, cooperation, self-awareness, (and, of course) memory and communication.”

An elephant’s cortex also has as many neurons as the human brain suggesting convergent evolution. That is, “the independent evolution of similar features in species of different lineages.” They also possess strong family ties, possessing one of the most closely-knit societies of any species, and display grief at the passing of a family member. According to many researchers in this field, it is morally wrong for humans to cull them!

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

There is one ability elephants don’t have that we humans have: the ability to make war against neighboring elephant families and other animal specifies! – Sorry, I just had to get that dig in.

One of my favorite thoughts is, “If god created it, love it!” (and God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:31)

Amazing Intelligence in Animals—The Crafty Crow

Crows are smarter than you think!

This story first appeared on the 27th of July, 2017, in a column that I write for the Temple City Star.

Most everyone that I’ve talked to can tell me at least one story of how smart dogs are and the intelligence that they display. But, do you know that birds are also very intelligent, especially the crow?

Crows are crafty little critters, ask anyone who’s tried to catch one or shoo it away from a fruit tree. A crow’s brain is about the size of a human thumb, putting it on relative par with primates. A PBS series “Nature” showed an experiment where a crow figured out how to use a small stick to retrieve a larger stick, then use that larger stick to get at some food that had been placed out of its reach. Crows can also recognize individual people that are important to its survival, and can distinguish between who’s a danger or a friend to them.

Crows are born with tool-making abilities, and hone that ability by watching their elders, a sign of higher intelligence.

(name withheld) of Seattle, Washington, has reported that her backyard crows have left over 70 trinkets in her bird feeder, including ear rings, a heart and “best friend” charm, all with an enticing reminder to “keep the food coming, lady!”

Is your love for animals Selfish or Unselfish?

My wife and I are animal lovers–more correctly, all-of-God’s-creation lovers, and we’ve adopted and fostered quite a number of pets in our time. A person (I forget at the moment who it was nor the circumstance. Doesn’t matter) once commented to me on how well animals, especially cats and dogs, seem to respond positively to my touch: they seem to gravitate towards me and love to be held and caressed by me. Yet, for him, animals didn’t seem as friendly, even though he claimed to love animals. Unless he held out food to them, they didn’t want to come to him.

I’ve sometimes wondered if should have told him why. Would it have made a difference, or would he have been insulted? If I’d have told him that the way one loves makes all the difference. For example, did he find that little puppy dog cute that a  friend held out to him, and, because of its cuteness, wanted to hold it and pet it–or did he see that the little ball of energy needed someone to care and give it assurance that it was loved?

Let me explain. I’ve already mentioned that my wife and I have adopted and fostered quite a number of pets in our time. Some of the pets, especially cats, found their way to our doorstep already fully vetted. That is, they already were either neutered or spayed and had received all their vaccinations. At first, we were a bit puzzled about this. Why would someone give up a pet that already was fully vetted? That also meant that they must have bought the cat from either a  licensed pet store, or from one of the local animal shelter  groups. Another observation was that these cats, although adult, were all under a year old. Then, on a chance encounter with a family that had just adopted a young kitten, the puzzle came together.

The daughter of this family had been bugging her mother for a pet, so one day, off they trundled to a pet shop. There they found a mother cat that had fairly recently had a batch of kittens. I imagined the scene that must have taken place.

“Oh look at that cute little calico kitten!” the girl exclaimed excitedly. “It has such beautiful little round blue eyes! I want her, Mommy! Please!”

So, of course, Mommy bought the kitten and they took it home where, for the first couple months, the girl spend endless ours playing with it and making sure that it was properly fed. As that ‘cute’ kitten gradually grew into an adult cat, the novelty of owning a ‘cute kitten’ wore off and the young girl no longer was interested in caring for it, and the mother certainly didn’t have the time to clean litter boxes so, out the door went the cat! Find yourself a new home!

And that, my friend, is the difference between selfish and unselfish love for pets. One loves animals because it pleases the person, while the other loves animals because it pleases the animal.